Sidra Medical and Research Center (Sidra) concluded – BRECIS – the first conference dedicated to breast cancer immunotherapy in Doha yesterday. The two day event, organized by Sidra and part of the popular Sidra Symposia Series, was held in partnership with the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).
It attracted more than 350 researchers, clinicians, allied health specialists and scientists.
Key highlights from the conference included detailed presentations related to pre-clinical and clinical trial developments in breast cancer research with insights provided on breast cancer in Qatar and in the wider Arab population from experts such as Dr. Salha Boujassoum from HMC (Qatar); Dr. Lotfi Chouchane from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar and Prof. Hammouda Boussen from Institut Salah Azaiz (Tunisia).
“We were very pleased to provide a platform for research and medical specialists from Qatar and all over the world to share knowledge, insights and consider future collaborative projects. It is exciting to see the level of interest and progress on breast cancer research particularly the use of immunotherapy,” said Davide Bedognetti, the Director of Tumor Biology, Immunology and Therapy Section, Sidra Medical and Research Center, who also chaired the conference.
“It also serves to highlight the world-class level of expertise and research that is currently underway in Qatar not only at Sidra but also at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q); Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Qatar University (QU) and other institutions like Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI). We are no longer spectators but have actually joined the ranks in the global race to improve treatment for aggressive diseases such as breast cancer,” he added.
Other local presenters at BRECIS included Ms. Thenaa Said who outlined Qatar National Research Fund’s funding program for medical research in Qatar and beyond while Mr. Michele Ceccarelli, Senior Scientist from QCRI highlighted how medical data is analyzed in identifying novel master regulators of inflammatory breast cancer.
Findings related to actual immunotherapy trials in breast cancer were presented by experts such Prof. Nora Disis from University of Washington (USA); Prof. Barbara Seliger from Martin-Luther Universitat (Germany); Prof. Holbrook Kohrt from Stanford School of Medicine (USA); Prof. Brendon Coventry from the University of Adelaide among others. In particular, Prof. Leisha Emens from John Hopkins Medicine (USA) presented the results of one of the first two trials showing the activity of a novel immunotherapeutic agent (anti-PD1 ligand) in metastatic breast cancer.
“Although this is an early trial conducted in a limited number of patients, it is extremely promising as 33 per cent of patients responded to immunotherapy, and the responses were very durable. It tells us that we have to push forward and further continue this fascinating approach in a breast cancer setting,” noted Dr. Bedognetti.
Dr. Bedognetti also presented data of a genomic analysis based on The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) repository. The study was conducted with a team from QCRI led by Dr. Michele Ceccarelli and identified potential genetic alterations in cancer cells responsible for driving anti-cancer immune responsiveness. The investigators aim to validate these results in the Qatari population through a collaborative project with HMC physicians led by Dr. Salha Bujassoum, Senior Consultant Hematology/Oncology, National Center for Cancer and Research, HMC.
“We are proud to partner with the SIDRA Medical and Research Center for the Breast Cancer Immunotherapy Symposium (BRECIS). Breast cancer is a major problem across throughout the world and bringing together international experts to address the role of the immune system in the clinical management of breast cancer could have a profound impact for both cancer investigators and patients with the disease. The BRECIS program will help raise global awareness of this important disease and will enhance progress in the field of immunotherapy as another option for all patients with breast cancer,” said Howard L. Kaufman, MD, FACS, SITC President and Associate Director for Clinical Science, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
BRECIS also hosted the Abstract Travel Awards which are offered to young investigators in the field of cancer immunotherapy. The awards recognize excellence in novel research presented in submitted abstracts which were presented during BRECIS. This year featured six investigators from Belgium, Italy, Qatar, Switzerland and the United States of America.
“It is important that the next generation of researchers are recognized and given full support by mentors and peers in the research industry. This is in line with Sidra’s and SITC’s missions in providing valuable opportunities for research and learning. We would like to wish the young investigators all the best in their research and that together we can all strengthen our endeavor to further research on immunotherapy in breast cancer,” concluded Dr. Bedognetti.